Oakland County mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 26, 2017

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Mosquitoes in a local pool recently tested positive for West Nile virus, according to officials from the Oakland County Health Division.

“We check traps routinely throughout the season, and on a weekly basis, we test the pools for West Nile virus. This was a routine testing, and one of the pools tested positive for West Nile virus,” said Kristina Ottenwess, health education supervisor at the Oakland County Health Division. “This is something that the Health Division does throughout the season. This isn’t surprising. We know (West Nile) is here — this is to be expected.

According to the Oakland County Health Division, West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain. Mosquitoes get infected with the disease by biting a bird that carries the virus, which is then spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“About one in five people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal neurologic illness,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Most people who are infected with the virus have either no symptoms or experience mild illness, such as a fever, headache and body aches, officials said in a news release. In some individuals, especially the elderly, the disease can develop more seriously and can affect brain tissue.

No human cases of the virus have been reported this year, according to officials.

“WNV is typically detected from June through September,” Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County Health Division, said in a news release. “Prevention is the best way to avoid the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.”

The best way to prevent being infected with West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites, according to Ottenwess.

Ottenwess recommends spraying clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of insect repellents containing active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Two products registered with the EPA that have shown a high degree of effectiveness are DEET and Picaridin.

Officials also recommend minimizing activities where mosquitoes are present and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors.

Residents should also eliminate standing water in their yards by emptying water that could be used as mosquito breeding sites, such as  in flower pots, pet bowls, clogged drain gutters, swimming pool covers, discarded tires, buckets, barrels, cans and similar items in which mosquitoes can lay eggs.

Ottenwess said that the Health Division will not be disclosing where exactly the mosquitoes tested positive for the disease.

“We can never disclose the location for the traps or pools. The message for the public is that we know West Nile virus is here. Everyone should be vigilant about protection measures, and location should not be used as an indicator as to whether it’s present or not,” Ottenwess said.

The city of Southfield is also taking steps to prevent illness from West Nile. According to the city’s website, each year, crews treat catch basins with larvicides to prevent the spread of the disease.

City detention ponds and areas on city property that have standing, stagnant water will be treated with larvicide on an as-needed basis, the website said.